School on Saturday

When I was just a young buck in Hawaii, I was dumb enough to get into trouble from time to time. Now, my leadership, rather than going to the trouble of a court martial or non-judicial punishment for what were really rather minor infractions would invite me to attend “The School of the Soldier”.

Now, in the service, you can’t be punished without due process, either by court martial or by the commander making a determination that you did in fact commit an infraction against the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Just because you joined the Army doesn’t mean you don’t have Constitutional rights.

Additional training and instruction, however, is another matter. As I say, I was invited to attend “SOS”. It was more or less a command performance.

What is School of the Soldier? Bright and early on a Saturday morning, you and your classmates would get up and start with some very vigorous physical training. Like pushups and situps until you puke, followed by a run long and fast enough to make you puke again. Because PT is good for you. Then, after a quick breakfast and change into uniform, classes would begin. Fun stuff, like how to dig a fighting position. And of course, in the Army, you learn by doing. Then other fun stuff, like how to low crawl to avoid being shot (a surprisingly exerting way of crawling, by the by). Then maybe a good class in field sanitation and the importance of keeping garbage cans squeaky clean. How to put up a pup tent. How to take down a pup tent. How to do it again. And again. And again. You get the idea. Some of the instructors were very creative in finding niches of our military education that needed reinforcement.

Of course, all of this instruction and training came from Sergeants who were not very happy to be working on a Saturday. After all, THEY didn’t screw up, did they? Or maybe they did, and that was why they were invited to be the instructors.

I only went to School on Saturday once. I’m a quick learner sometimes.

Friday Catblogging

Sox is an inveterate birdwatcher. He works hard to  keep us safe from the swarms of hummingbirds that come by. He’s an inside-only kitty, so he just glares at them. Sometime he paws at the window. But ever since he started standing watch, not once has a hummingbird made it inside to attack us. Good kitty.

Eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty from the hummingbird hordes.
Eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty from the hummingbird hordes.

Call Me?

Unlike pilots in the Navy, most folks in the Army don’t have a cool call-sign like “Maverick” or “Ice” or “Snort” or my favorites, “Notso”, a moniker hung on two guys, one named Swift and one named Bright.

Each unit in the Army is given a small pocket sized code book, good for 30 days, that lists the frequencies and call signs for pretty much every unit in their division or brigade. This is the Signal Operating Instruction or SOI. Since there is only so much bandwith in the radio spectrum, they have to be careful that everybody gets a frequency to work on, without stepping on someone elses conversation. Everybody on one frequency is said to be on a net, which is of course short for “network.” Each company will have its own net. Often, each platoon will have its own.

The SOI also gives the call signs. These are alphanumeric constructs. For instance, Company A, 1st Battlion, 27th Infantry, of the 25th Infantry Division, may have the call sign today of M67, and tomorrow it may be C28. Usually, you talk to your peers on your net, and listen in to the net of your higher headquarters. Thus, the CO of the Company would have a radio set to the company net, and one set to the Battalion headquarters net.

Now, it is tough to keep track of all the changes in the call signs. It isn’t so bad remembering your own, but it is pretty hard remembering that the third platoon’s platoon sergeant is T54D. What often happens is that at the company  level and below, the call signs from the SOI are disregarded, and the company uses a color code. How’s that work? I’m glad you asked… Let’s take a look at my last company, A-1/12 IN.

The company had a headquarters and three platoons of 4 Bradleys each. Each platoon, in addition to its Bradleys had a squad of infantry (the book says there’s two squads, but we never had enough people to fill both out, so we just used one squad.)

The headquarters color was Black. The first platoon was Blue, second was Red, and the third was White. The CO used the number “six” for his call sign. Thus, if you wanted to talk to the CO, you called for “Black Six.” The XO was “Black Five” (many of you may have seen the excellent milblog Blackfive. Does the name make more sense now?) The First Sergeant was “Black Seven.”

Down in the trenches, each Bradley was numbered one through four. Thus, the platoon leaders track in the first platoon was “Blue One”. His gunner was Blue One Golf, and his driver was Blue One Delta. The platoon sergeant was always “Blue Four”

The dismount squads adopted the callsign “Blue Five” with the team leaders for the squad adding either “Alpha” or “Bravo” as appropriate. I spent several months as “Blue Five Bravo.”

It may not have been as cool as “Goose” or “Slider” but you take what you can get.

Does this radio make my butt look big?